Ho Chi Minh City has a rural area where low-income farmers can be seen harvesting rice in fields in a scene typical of the Vietnamese rice-growing countryside but a lot of sweat goes with this seeming romance.
Thanh Da has been expected to become one of the southern metropolis’ leading economic and tourist hot spots, with great potential for growth as it is situated just a short distance from downtown and mostly surrounded by the Saigon River.
But such hustle has yet to materialize on this balloon-shaped isle, where around 50 families are striving for survival in their rice paddies.
During harvest seasons, farmers collect rice manually while squelching in the small-sized fields collectively amounting to 30 hectares, down from 90 hectares prior to 2010.
|A farmer carries a sheaf of rice in his field in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A farmer pulls a grain-removing tool in his field in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Bui Van Ba, a 50-year-old man who has grown rice in traditional ways for 30 years, said all the rice his family reaps from a 4,000-square-meter piece of land – almost half a football pitch – serves as feed for livestock.
With rudimentary farming methods and a modest field, he does not expect a bumper crop and the agricultural income is just enough to make ends meet.
He said the Thanh Da isle is just like an underdeveloped world separated by the river from the thriving neighboring areas in Binh Thanh District and District 2, with apartment buildings dominating the cityscape.
Many farmers have switched to growing other plants such as lotuses and cassava and keeping cattle and fish to adapt to poor rice harvests in the fields contaminated by brackish water.
|A man carries bags of rice on a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A farmer holds rice in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The presence of a backward area inside Ho Chi Minh City stems from the government’s role.
The municipal administration designated this peninsula as a modern urban area in 1992 and 12 years later a firm was tasked with carrying out the gentrification project but ended up failing to do that.
Over the following six years, several companies, including one from Dubai – which then refused to join – became the project’s developers but little construction progress has been made because the government has faced nagging problems in paying compensation for taking land from local residents.
|Farmers remove grains from rice stems in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A farmer spreads rice over his front yard in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A farmer works in his rice field in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A man feeds rice to ducks at his home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A lotus lake in the Thanh Da isle of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|